To save a life

You’re looking at Interstate 696 at Coolidge Highway, north of Detroit, early Tuesday morning:

Suicide prevention on a Michigan freeway

What you’re not seeing is the guy up on the overpass who had intended to jump to his death:

He had either climbed over or around the protective fence and was standing on the top of the bridge’s side barrier, above eastbound traffic, near the median.

There happens to be a Michigan State Police post just a half mile away, so response was both quick and massive. While negotiators from the MSP, Oak Park, and Huntington Woods PDs talked to the man, the state police began shutting down eastbound traffic on the interstate highway. Well, they didn’t shut down traffic entirely. While cars and light trucks were rerouted off the freeway, about a half dozen tractor-trailer rigs were let through to the overpass, where police directed them to line up closely, side-by-side, directly under the bridge. The idea was to shorten the fall if the man decided to go ahead and jump. The same was done on the westbound side of the overpass. A total of 14 truckers apparently volunteered to help save the man’s life, though only 13 fit under the bridge.

It’s about a 30-foot drop from the ledge to the pavement, an almost guaranteed splat into the next world. A semi-trailer reduces that distance by about half, which would give the guy a fighting chance.

Police negotiators from the three departments talked to the man for hours, finally convincing him to accompany them to a hospital for a psychiatric evaluation. I-696 was reopened to traffic around 4:00 a.m.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is at 1-800-273-8255. Put it on speed dial if you ever think you have to.


  1. fillyjonk »

    25 April 2018 · 7:17 pm

    My thought was: I hope the guy realized that there were 13 strangers who were willing to go to (at least minor) inconvenience to help him.

    (Though I suspect at least one of those truckers had lost, as I have, a family member to suicide)

  2. McGehee »

    25 April 2018 · 9:27 pm

    One trouble with his plan was, a 30-foot drop is actually survivable — even for someone intending to hit the ground “fatally.” He might even be left capable of wishing he hadn’t survived even if he changed his mind about suicide.

  3. Roger O Green »

    26 April 2018 · 10:31 am

    I LOVE this story!

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